With twenty years in the locum tenens industry, it amazes me just how many of the original recruiters in the business have been coordinating locum tenens coverage for twenty plus years. Many of these same pioneers have gone on to start their own locum tenens companies, become senior management, or just plain hammer the phone everyday placing temporary physicians.
Locum tenens saw an explosion of growth in the 80’s, led by Comphealth and Jackson and Coker. Oh yes, those were heady days indeed. A room full of people feverishly smoking cigarettes, talking on the phone explaining exactly what the heck the locum tenens was, and spelling it more than 100 times a day, even though many of the same recruiters mispronounced it themselves!
By the late 80’s, with the crisis shortage of anesthesiologists, the growth of locum tenens was propelled to new heights, and also created companies that actually staffed and managed anesthesia departments. Then the famous oversupply of Anesthesiologists came around in the early 90’s; the companies were then forced to concentrate on other areas, which again contributed to another explosion of growth! And during all these changes, many of the same recruiters saw their companies go from 7 million dollars a year to 20 million dollars a year and beyond.
But why do so many locum tenens recruiters stay in the business and not make career changes that are so common in other industries? The short answer, locum tenens is very interesting.
Being involved in the locum tenens business provides challenges on top of challenges. In an environment of extreme credentialing, a coordinator must make the impossible happen on a moments notice. And if you work LT, you understand what I’m talking about. Also, problem solving is a daily occurrence, and a good dose of crisis management occurs at least twice a month or more. Moving medicine is a process, and matching the right medical skills, credentials and personalities is a skill not a given. The locum tenens recruiter is a master of relationships with highly skilled professionals, be it a neurosurgeon or a CEO of a hospital system. In dealing with these individuals it takes polish and confidence to complete the task. Those that don’t grasp the complexity and the malpractice risks involved are quickly weeded out of a business that thrives on quality assurance with tight deadlines.
Locum tenens is a service where your salesperson is also the person handling the details of the assignment in which you are being placed. As a sales position, locum tenens offers a sale a day, with a healthy dollar amount to deal with. Most sales jobs are a study in tedium, a sale occurring over months, or up to a year. Not so in LT, the contract is signed with the client, the search is on and the contract physician is placed in a matter of days. Start the revenue flow! But this is not to say that your locum tenens recruiter is only interested in money. There is also a sense of mission involved, providing medical services to an underserved area, responding to the loss of a popular surgeon in a community where there is an acute shortage, and providing much needed relief to an overextended group of dedicated anesthesiologists. The feeling of accomplishment is great, and with your more senior people, well-rewarded.
It is not just the business of locum tenens that contributes to the low turnover of a recruiter, but also the exceptional progressive nature of the locum tenens companies. The industry has been blessed with management that has promoted from within, paid above average compensation, and stayed on the forefront of new trends such as working from home, group incentive vacations and commission programs that rewarded not only volume but quality. There is also a sense of professionalism and camaraderie when the locum tenens companies meet to discuss the problem of malpractice, credentialing, government interference and other issues facing the industry.
So if you have been working with your locum tenens recruiter for years now, or just started working with a new recruiter, chances are they are informed and experienced, and hopefully you will establish a long and strong friendship in an industry that continually effects medicine in ways not thought of twenty years ago.
Carmen A. Renaldy, III has been in the physician staffing and locum tenens industry since 1981 and has founded his own company, Med Link. Med Link provides physicians in hospital & emergency medicine, anesthesia, all surgical specialties, neurology and pulmonary-critical care medicine. He is also a board member of NALTO-National Association of Locum Tenens Organizations.